Published: Dec. 31, 2008

It's not too late to get into shape for your favorite winter sports activity with the snow piling up in the Colorado high country.

According to James Hardy, assistant strength and conditioning coach in the University of Colorado at Boulder athletics department, the first step to getting into shape is to get your body moving.

"The first thing I would do is to start walking because if you are not active at all, walking is an easy way to get you that aerobic base that you need to help you get started," said Hardy. "And then after a week or so, I'd begin running or doing some other cardiovascular exercise, like cycling or swimming, at least four days a week, 20 minutes to 30 minutes per session."

After a week or so of building cardiovascular endurance, Hardy said the next step is to begin building core body strength.

"The muscles you need to focus on strengthening are your core muscles: your abdominal, lower back and leg muscles," he said. "And the most important areas to strengthen are your legs and the best way to build leg strength is by doing squats and lunges."

Hardy suggests several exercises to build core body strength including:

o Bent knee sit-ups and leg raisers for abdominal muscles.

o The back arch exercise for the lower back. To do this exercise, lie on your stomach, lift your legs and arms off the ground and hold for several seconds.

o Squats and lunges. "Squatting is the best exercise for you because anytime that you squat you're activating a lot more muscles in your body than just your legs," said Hardy. "So you are getting a complete, full body workout."

As a safety precaution, he recommends training with a partner, and to seek advice from a certified trainer if you have never done squats before.

And if you can't make it to the weight room, he said there are a number of exercises you can do at home to get into shape.

Hold weighted dumbbells in your hands and do leg lunges, or put your back against the wall and slide down into a chair position and hold it for as long as you can.

And a fit ball -- those giant, inflated rubber balls -- along with the floor and a couple of chairs also will help you to get stronger, said Hardy.

Use the fit ball for sit-ups and back raises. Do push-ups on the floor with your feet on the fit ball. And for your triceps muscle, grab a couple of chairs and do dips with your legs placed up on one chair and your hands on the other chair. Then lower yourself down and then back up, repeating the motion several times.

For each exercise, Hardy said to do three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions in each set. For best results, he said to exercise three to four times a week.

If you get started now, he said you should be in good enough shape for any winter sport activity in as little as two to three weeks.